Dr. Shanna Peeples, the 2015 National Teacher of Year, was named the new Dr. John G. O’Brien Distinguished Chair in Education. She joined the WTAMU Department of Education on Sept. 1, 2020.
This hire will prove to be beneficial for not only WTAMU but also rural area educators. According to a WTAMU press release, “As the Distinguished Chair, Peeples will collaborate with area school administration, faculty and community members to identify problems of educational practice in rural schools. She also will facilitate scholarly research by WT faculty members and doctoral candidates designed to produce regionally responsive, research-based solutions to the challenges facing rural schools and communities, all of which will benefit both the WT education program and area educators.”
“I didn’t know about this position or even that it existed until after I graduated from Harvard,” Peeples said. “What I did know is that I wanted to somehow stay connected to teaching and students because that’s the center of my heart.”
Along with experience teaching at Horace Mann Middle School and Palo Duro High School in Amarillo, Peeples earned a master of education degree from the University of Texas at Arlington before earning a doctorate in education from Harvard University in May.
“As a teacher, I’m always asking myself how to make a learning experience more effective. The ability to study at Harvard allowed me to expand that question to think about systems and communities. Some of the most interesting coursework taught me systems thinking and human-centered design – both concepts that can help our area with sustainable longevity based on new ways of understanding how we can work together to benefit everyone,” Peeples said.
Peeples will add to an already well respected Department of Education. “Dr. Peeples is a nationally recognized educator, author and scholar, and we are honored that she will join our outstanding faculty to help accomplish the vision the O’Brien family had when they established the Distinguished Chair,” said Dr. Eddie Henderson, dean of WTAMU’s College of Education and Social Sciences.
WTAMU President Dr. Walter V. Wendler reiterated Dr. Henderson’s praise. “Dr. Peeples will bring the kind of academic rigor we need to continue to grow WT into a regional research university, as well as having a real impact on how students are taught in rural schools all around the Panhandle,” Wendler said.
Peeples, a WTAMU alumni, said she is excited to find the perfect position in her own backyard. “What’s deeply humbling about returning to my alma mater is the chance to give back to so many who invested in me. I’m a product of the Panhandle and the result of the work of folks who value education, faith, commitment, innovation, and working together. I share those same values and am looking forward to the ability to serve WT students in their pursuit of meaning and purpose, and to call upon national and international networks of practice to help our region,” Peeples said.